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Calum Martin posted a topic in iFlysimX ReviewsWhen SimWings / Aerosoft announced that they were hard at work at creating a brand new Heathrow, it was met with a massive “well what is the point” from the community. Not only was UK Airport Developer Gary from UK2000 scenery hard at work at creating a brand new version of Heathrow, but it was very close from being released. However, the community suddenly perked some interest when the first screenshots were shown. Suddenly, things were heating up, and with anticipated release dates for both sceneries within spitting distance of one another, it gave consumers a massive headache – which would be the better of the two. Just as people were getting their heads around it, SimWings delayed theirs and Gary released his. At the time, it was obvious: if you wanted the most up-to-date and frame friendly Heathrow on the market, Gary’s was the way to go. However, the choice is now much more difficult as we have two excellent products on the market (let alone the numerous versions of the exciting airport from before!) As a result of this direct competition and the angst amongst you all to find out which product you should spend your money, I have divided this review into several sections allowing you to read what you want to read which will help you decide. The sections will be as follows: THOSE WHO HAVE UK2000’S HEATHROW V3 AND ARE NOT SURE WHETHER TO UPGRADE THOSE WHO HAVE NEITHER AND UNSURE WHICH TO PURCHASE THOSE WHO HAVE CONCERNS OVER PERFORMANCE AND VAS USAGE CONCLUSION All sections will cover and answer the questions that most have about SimWing’s Heathrow and how it stacks to the competition. My specs are at the bottom of the page and all my settings are pretty standard. All screenshots were taken in ‘normal’ conditions for me, so no bullshot to mislead you. I RECOMMEND READING THE WHOLE REVIEW FOR A GOOD OVERALL REVIEW ON THE PRODUCT. Let’s start: THOSE WHO HAVE UK2000’S HEATHROW V3 AND ARE NOT SURE WHETHER TO UPGRADE So you have UK2000’s Heathrow V3 - a fantastic product in its own right. It’s detailed, accurate and the most up-to-date Heathrow on the market. Not only that, but Gary is a solo developer that relies on repeat business and has always gone from strength to strength. I really enjoyed Gary’s edition of Heathrow. It was surprisingly easy on the frame rates and the VAS usage was controllable. But how does it compare to Aerosoft’s / SimWing’s Heathrow Xtended? As you can see from the screenshots, Aerosoft’s Heathrow looks stunning. It is immediately noticeable as to how different it looks compared to UK2000’s Heathrow. Everything from texture work and objects are completely different. In my opinion, the texture work from SimWing’s out does Gary’s work and then some. The texturing is much more detailed and colour accurate. Something I didn’t like so much with UK2000’s Heathrow was the ‘yellow-ish’ tint that seemed to cover the airport. Taxiways and runways all looked a bit off-colour. However, SimWings have done an excellent job at creating a much more realistic and believable colour pallet. The grass verges, the runways and taxiiways all look incredible and are streaming with detail. There’s clear definition between every single object and light within the airport. I love the way that there’s clear contrast between terminal buildings and the more generic buildings of the airport. As a result, you feel like you’re actually taxing through Heathrow’s huge apron, passing distinctive and recognisable buildings. As you explore, you will notice even the finer details that make this the most up-to-date Heathrow currently on the market. For example, the Virgin Atlantic hanger is now equipped with its current logo, something already outdated in UK2000’s Heathrow. Sure it’s a small thing, but if you’re after accuracy in building placement and design, Aerosoft’s Heathrow is for you. Further to the defined texture work and new buildings, the night lighting compared to UK2000’s Heathrow is vastly better. Every single taxiway is lit up now, and the apron really comes to life with yellow tints spread throughout the airport. Compare that to the dimly lit and lacking night lighting of UK2000’s version, you will see an immediate difference. Quite simple, Aerosoft / SimWings have NAILED the night lighting and approaching the airport during dawn/dusk is simply stunning. When you install UK2000’s Heathrow, you’re given many options to help increase performance. The screenshots you see in this section have my settings on the low-amount setting offered by UK2000. Why? Simply because I wasn’t achieving an acceptable frame rate. As soon as I turn it up to High or even EXTREME then my frames sunk drastically into the low-teens. Unlike UK2000’s version, Heathrow Xtended has no options (besides the ability to turn off AES Lite around the airport) for increased performance. However, I achieve similar frame rates as I do with the current LOW setting of Gary’s Heathrow. So I am able to achieve what essentially what EXTREME would like, but with solid and acceptable frames. This alone is reason to buy it over UK2000’s Heathrow. So should you buy Aerosoft’s / SimWing’s Heathrow despite owning UK2000’s? YES --- THOSE WHO HAVE NEITHER AND UNSURE WHICH TO PURCHASE So you’re fed up of default Heathrow and are unsure which Heathrow to buy. Sure, that’s fair enough with so many different Heathrow add-ons out there to buy. SimWing’s Heathrow Xtended is not the cheapest option out there. UK2000’s undercuts Aerosoft’s by just a bit, but in this money saving culture we live in, is it justifiable to spend extra for an increase in quality? If you’ve read the section above, you will know that I had a lot of praise to say about the increase in quality between the two products. There are a lot more objects, a lot more detail in the textures and the airport is much more up-to-date in terms of structure changes and signage. If this is important to you, then I recommend you spend the extra money on Aerosoft’s Heathrow Xtended. It’s easy to think that newer is always better, because for some people it may not be the case. If you wish to use things such as the airbridges (which Heathrow has a lot of), then you need to be prepared to buy AES from Aerosoft as well to enable them (also bearing in mind it’s not out yet). Yet, with UK2000’s, airbridges work by default and stick to your aircraft wonderfully. Furthermore, as far as I’m aware, the texture work of Aerosoft’s Heathrow have been designed with ORBX’s FTX Global in mind. I’m lucky enough to be in possession of both products and have it merge in wonderfully with Global and FTX England. However, UK2000’s doesn’t merge as nicely, it does however, merge nicer with default FSX. So again, if you wish to have all the perks and benefits of SimWing’s Heathrow, then you’re going to need to spend extra money. Suddenly spending a few extra pounds/euros/dollars has resulted in your spending more and more. Of course, if you own ORBX FTX Global / England and are prepared to use a few AES credits, then you’ll have no problems. That’s not to say however, that you MUST buy all the extras for the scenery, as it still looks wonderful without it and functions as intended. So should you buy SimWing’s Heathrow over the competition? YES – as it offers the best value for money in terms of performance and high quality visuals. -- THOSE WHO HAVE CONCERNS OVER PERFORMANCE AND VAS USAGE Every time a new Heathrow is released, one of the most requested features if a high frame rate and a much more managed VAS usage. In the day and age of extensive add-ons, high resolution textures this is a reoccurring problem for developers and consumers alike. We all crave the most realistic experience possible, but with that, we must take some sacrifices and the same has to be said here, with SimWing’s Heathrow. Much attention was given to the amount of VAS and how the scenery performs on people’s systems. There isn’t much to ‘review’ on VAS usage other than I can tell you that it only uses roughly 500mb of memory. This is nothing compared to the number of parking stands and sheer amount of detail the airport covers. Not only that, but being near London also makes it prone to an increase in VAS usage. 500mb is a completely acceptable amount, and I’ve not experienced a single OOM with the scenery as a result (I am using DX10). As always, disable any unused scenery (it takes like 2 minutes) and be conscious of the number of AI you’re using, the resolution of your textures and other OOM-causing scenarios. It’s all about compromise. In terms of performance, this is single handily the most FPS friendly Heathrow for Flight Simulation (aside default…) Ground texturing and modelling is top class, however there have been some shortcomings, which I imagine is an attempt to reduce the impact on performance. For example, taxiway signs (and there are a lot of them), aren’t quite the same high quality you’re used to seeing. Also, despite the large amount of coverage, there is a distinct lack of draw distance on the satellite imagery used. Another compromise that you’ll have to deal with is the slow-loading textures of most of the buildings. Despite loading correctly and accurately, when you start to pan your view around, you will notice that buildings are textured jet-black, until eventually they load up again. If you pan around again, wait a few minutes and look back, you’ll have to go through the same process. I imagine this is totally intentional from the developers to help keep performance as high as possible. After all, if you’re in the Flight Deck, you can’t see what’s behind you so why have it niggling away in the memory. A clever developer trick, but may affect the immersion for some. So is Performance and VAS usage a cause of concern? No! -- CONCLUSION As you can see, even when splitting down the review, the conclusion is always the same. Without a doubt, this is the BEST version of Heathrow currently on the market. Everything from the accurately placed buildings, the updated models for the new terminals and structures and the impressive texturing and performance for the airport. Heathrow is an exciting airport and will always be relevant in aviation. With so much to see and do, it’ll make for a perfect hub for so many people. Aerosoft have done an excellent job at creating a well-balanced and fantastic looking scenery. It’s fairly priced and blends in well with other popular add-ons. Despite some issues with texture loading and a lack of snowy textures during winter, there’s very little stopping me from saying this is a near perfect example of how a large scale airport should be done. 5/5 | Developer: SimWings | Publisher: Aerosoft | Price: 27.95EUR PURCHASE AEROSOFT'S MEGA AIRPORT HEATHROW XTENDED AIRPORT HERE Heathrow is and always will be a tough airport to develop for Flight Simulator. Its location and size presents headaches for pilots and developers alike, but luckily, SimWings have created a well balanced and well performing scenery package. Whether you’re new to payware for Heathrow or upgrading from alterative products, this is the defining Heathrow for Flight Simulation currently available. + Very frame and VAS friendly package. + Wonderful modelling compares to the real thing. - Occasionally slow-Loading textures when panning views. - Pricier than alternative Heathrow packages.